Thursday, January 26, 2006

Being able to speak in Mandarin is an asset. Really. In a microstate where the majority of its population are Chinese, being able to converse in Mandarin is vital. Nevermind if it's a forward nation where advanced techno gadgetry is as common as ants lurking in every corner of intelligent-built apartments.
English, they say. What about it? We're not English albeit the colonisation since in the early 19th century! Sure, the English language is our lingua franca though amusingly, Bahasa Melayu is the national language. Some things come as a paradox in effect, fueling character.

Why am I blogging about this?! Am I not afraid of being tracked down by the government and be crucified for blogging down potentially racist content? Why do this when the government is trying very hard to campaign its ethnic integration policies? To tell the truth, I'm hardly a racist. Given the complex heritage of my own ethnicity, I shamelessly call myself a Malay, in the classic sense, just as it is stated on my pink card. Yet, reading papers on the current affairs, I could not help but remember an open letter wrote by a fellow Malay, Alfian Saat, titled 'A Racist's Apology'. In my opinion, he's hit bullseye.

I've come along living in this synthetic ideal and had picked up Mandarin at a young age because of the environment I grew up in. All my neighbours were Chinese except for a single household of conservative Indian couple, who rarely open their world of mysterious exotic spices, which was most of the time lingering in the air at dinner time. I'll say that my Mandarin is pretty good being able to hold a decent light conversation most of the time. Where oral fluency has limitations, it is superceded by my ability to translate about 90% of whatever Mandarin that was directed at me. I use Mandarin to converse with hundreds of People from the Republic of China on a daily basis though sometimes I had to struggle with native accents. Yet, I am faced with a stigma when applying for jobs. I've been doing it for awhile now, just trying to see if I could get an interview. And everytime I got called up, they'd ask me the question: Are you billingual?
Strange isn't it? In a country where billigualism is a norm. Well, let me redirect. The actual question was 'Can you speak chinese?' do I answer that? I know I could probably have held a short conversation in Mandarin with her, but what if she iterated in Hokkien? Or Cantonese? Teochew? Hakka even???! These are but Chinese as well! Being at that particular receiving end, I'd rather she spoke to me in Tamil Naidu altogether giving me an option of hanging up on her! Tamil is a very difficult language to pick up by the way. And if I did, do I have the miracle to perform chinese calligraphy?

Recently, I saw the news on some public figure urging the Malay community to get involved with the grassroots. Again I found myself amused in this direction. God knows I've worked with grassroots. Honestly, I didn't know whether to feel honoured or insulted when an ethnic community event I helped organize in favour of my own ethnic group had, in its opening ceremony, lion dance complete with chinese poetry! Even the mc spoke in Mandarin! For a very confused moment I thought inwardly if I am at the right place. There were too few Malay citizens amongst the audience and I wondered if they understood anything at all. It appeared to me as if schism's taking place.

So, here's my dilemma. Was the 'Speak Mandarin' campaigned launched somewhere in 1997 really an invested asset? I suppose the campaign successful, from the looks of it. Or has it been too successful that it had taken form of its own? I might be wrong but was there a 'Speak Malay' campaign or 'Speak Tamil' campaign? I mean, if it's really that important to the government and society in preserving mother tongue, I know for sure that the goverment couldn't have overlooked the grave importance of other minority languages...? Surely. Somewhere along these thoughts I've debated all possible reasons that would've made this campaign valid. Yet, an aching question picked at me...why not just 'Speak English'?

Forgive me my uncouth thoughts but I am not a racist. I just felt hard pressed to openly embrace the logic of a neanderthal. So, being able to converse in Mandarin is an asset. Really!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to Work!

After a week's hiatus, I'm back in the office. This time, to my delight, no strange & malicious looking articles left on my desk. There was a photo of me pinned on my computer screen embarrassing! It was a pic took before I went for my leave. My department had a Christmas Lunch party.
Anyway, the new year was supposed to be a time where everybody held resolutions for what comes ahead. Somebody's been bugging me to quit smoking. What a stereotype!!! resolutions for me this year. New things to embark on...perhaps. The old lady's decided to sell the apartment. My brother's getting hitched. I'm getting my own place. I'm thinking of cracking my trust fund...maybe not!

Oh..and my new boss quit. And it's just been like what..? 3 months? I mean, my colleagues and I were betting how long he'd it wasn't much of a surprise. The adverse effect of this boss-changing is that it's real difficult for the Management to take our appraisals seriously. How could they? except for our ex, ex-boss...
It is difficult to map our developments with such disruptions. Plus there are vultures lurking to grab the hot managerial seat. My colleagues had become so jaded with all this and it seems we had, somewhere along the way, decided to manage the work on our own. So, the boss can be just a state symbol! He just sits there emanating boss-like aura and signs autographs all day. We don't mind. Really. As long as he leaves us alone. Do you know how tiring it is to keep switching from pattern to pattern in a job? It's a revelation.

Anyway...whatever. Welcome 2006. I hope it's a ride!